Makeup Meltdown: Shelf Life of Cosmetics

Written by Amanda Azar

All good things must come to an end – especially makeup products. Contrary to popular belief, makeup has a relatively short shelf life compared to other household products. However, unlike grocery products, cosmetics’ best-if-used-by dates are not set until the product is used for the first time. The breakup countdown clock doesn’t start until the makeup has oxygen exposure after opening. Several key factors contribute to calculating the expiration date of makeup products, like the list of ingredients, formula consistency, projected usage frequency, storage temperature, and so on. This “Beauty Blueprint” will outline proper storage techniques and typical shelf life for common makeup products.




Shelf Life: One year (or sooner, if used while you were sick)


Storage: Cool, dry place away from direct sunlight or heat. To extend the life of lip products, frequently dip in alcohol and rub clean with a paper towel.


How can you tell? You will notice a distinct difference in smell, especially with waxy lipsticks. The product will have a stale odor and the texture will dry.




Shelf Life: Three months (the same recommended use as your toothbrush)


Storage: Cool, dry place away from direct sunlight or heat. To extend the use of mascara, don’t excessively pump the wand into the tube to collect the product. Doing so will introduce unwanted oxygen into the tube and break down the waxes and other ingredients, causing them to spoil faster and possibly cause eye infections.


How can you tell? You may notice a gasoline type of smell from the mascara tube. Also, if the mascara spoolie doesn’t pick up as much product as it used to, the tube may be dried up. It is never a good idea to attempt to revive life into mascara by adding eye drops, saliva, water, glycerin, or anything of the sort.




Shelf Life: One to two years      


Storage: Cool, dry place away from direct sunlight or heat. To keep pencils clean, sharpen before each use and spritz clean with alcohol.


How can you tell? You will see a white film along the tip of the pencil that will not rub off. Plus, if the tip keeps breaking off due to a dry, brittle texture, it is time to toss it.




Shelf Life: Three to four months


Storage: Cool, dry place away from direct sunlight or heat.


How can you tell? If the product begins skipping on the eyelid when applied, it is getting dried out. It may also give off a bitter smell when it is starting to spoil, due to the exposure of bacteria from the eye area.




Shelf Life: Three to six months


Storage: Cool, dry place away from direct sunlight or heat. When using any cream products, it is very important to tightly close the lid as soon as possible. If you are using the product in between eye makeup, flip the container upside down on the counter to prohibit air exposure, which will dry the product out quickly.


How can you tell? If using your fingers to apply the product, wash your hands before handling. Once the color starts to oxidize (or change hue), dry out, or smell a little sour, it is time to toss it and buy a new one.




Shelf Life: One year


Storage: Cool, dry place away from direct sunlight or heat.


How can you tell? If your eyes start to get red, itchy, or irritated after applying powder eyeshadows, it’s time to trash them. Powders tend to develop a white, chalky film on the top layer of the product once they start to expire. The best practice when using eyeshadow is to wipe clean using alcohol and a clean paper towel before use. Because shadows are used on the eye area containing mucus membrane, there is a greater risk of harboring bacteria in the product. Therefore, the shelf life is shorter than what some may expect.




Shelf Life: Two years


Storage: Cool, dry place away from direct sunlight or heat.


How can you tell? The product will give off an unpleasant smell and the makeup application will be uneven. These products have the longest shelf life of any other makeup product, unless the ingredient panel contains botanicals. If so, the powder will inherently include water and become a petri dish to grow bacteria, thus a shorter shelf life.




Shelf Life: Six to 12 months


Storage: Cool, dry place away from direct sunlight or heat. Best to keep foundation (and all makeup products) away from moisture-rich environments, like a bathroom, where bacteria loves to grow.


How can you tell? If any of the three indications of expired makeup are obvious (change in color, consistency, or smell), then it is time to part ways. Note: If your liquid foundation has a pump, the product can last up to 18 months, versus packaging that does not.




Shelf Life: 12 to 18 months


Storage: Cool, dry place away from direct sunlight or heat. Use with a dry makeup brush that is cleaned regularly. Avoid adding water to the product (directly or indirectly with a brush) to eliminate breeding bacteria.


How can you tell? These products will physically dry up and will stop transferring from the packaging. Once it refuses to budge from the container, it is time to replace.


A general rule of thumb when figuring out expiration dates on cosmetics is that products will have a shorter shelf life if they are in contact with the eye area or contain a lot of moisture. To prolong any makeup product, apply with clean hands, brushes, and tools and store in a cool, dry area (the bathroom is not a good storage place for your makeup bag). Never share makeup with friends or family. And, lastly, if you ever notice a change in color, formula consistency, or scent, throw the product away, regardless of how long you’ve had it.



Amanda Azar 2019Amanda Azar, LME is a published makeup artist, medical aesthetician, and body wrapper based in south Florida. She is the founder and executive artist of Azar Beauty, makeup artistry instructor at Cortiva Institute, and lead artist for NewsmaxTV, Pelican Grand’s Pure Spa, and St. Andrews Country Club. Azar has a degree in business management from Florida Atlantic University and diplomas in fashion makeup from Cosmix School of Makeup Artistry and paramedical aesthetics from Southeastern College and is dual-licensed and holds over 40 certifications. Azar is a member of the National Association of Professional Businesswomen, National Aesthetic Spa Network, Look Good Feel Better, and a RAW Artist alumni.

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